Coming back from a family reunion in Gap, in the Alps today, on the train…and the beauty of the landscape hits me, from either side of the train. I am making mental notes of dazzling places to return to, deserted, mountainous, shimmering. In between two snow-capped mountains, the sun shines, and valleys of green cascade down from the peaks, along the flanks of the range. If you blink, you miss the rushing river, snows melting from the heights, cascading down along the rocks, past ancient farm houses.
Here, a ruin from centuries ago, stands on a peak. There, the names of farmers is painted along random stone walls on a hill, in giant letters, washed away by fifty years.
The Alps, all around us when I was in Gap, are in my mind. I was standing in the parking lot of the supermarket, with snow-covered peaks all around, breathing in the crisp mountain air, thinking with a sigh of the grey city I was returning to.
We stayed in a place of pilgrimage (where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a peasant woman for 50 consecutive years in the 17th century), on our way to Gap. A beautiful, serene monastery, far away from everything, nested in the mountains. And I woke up in the morning to the clearest blue sky I had seen in a long time.
The landscape flattened, over the next few hours. Eventually, the mountains turned to hills, and we left the passionate peaks for tamer hills, then flat-lands, fertile, still, with fields and houses, and grazing cattle, and I eventually read my papers.
The train arrived in Paris, and the people were well-dressed again. The placed was bigger, more crowded, faster, there were lots of people, and I looked behind me. No mountains, no snow peaks.
I made my way into the tunnels, not having seen the sky, waited with the hundreds for a train that was delayed, and started thinking of how cheap 5 bedroom flats were down there, down south, in the Alps, where my family lives.
And why am I here? Couldn’t I just go there? etc. etc. etc. Thinking…well, what’s good about this place, anyway? when, all of a sudden, the little girl next to me, sitting on her mom’s lap, looked at me, and smiled. She reached down, (probably thinking she was grabbing her mom’s hand) and tightened her little warm grip on my index finger, squeezing, and fell asleep.
I laughed, and pulled the “wrong” index finger from her nice little grip, and thought, well….this won’t happen in the Alps. For one, there’s not much public transportation (and how miserable I would be without public transportation) and for the other..this is the place I choose to be. Maybe it’s choosing me back, but I have to give it a shot to know, either way.